Concern over health worker suicides
Concerns about the prevalence of suicide among healthcare professionals in Ireland, particularly female nurses, have been expressed by the National Suicide Research Foundation (NSRF).
New evidence from the NSRF’s Suicide Support and Information System (SSIS) reveals that 13 healthcare professionals died by suicide between September 2008 and February 2012 in Cork city and county. This represents 4.3 per cent of the total number of 300 suicides recorded by the SSIS over this period.
Dr Ella Arensman, director of research with the NSRF, said taking into account that these numbers applied only to Cork city and county, the number of suicides among healthcare professionals at national level could be considerably higher. The SSIS is continuing in Cork, but collecting only core data due to a lack of funding.
Dr Arensman explained that women were over-represented and the mean age at time of death was 37 years. The most frequently reported occupation was in the area of nursing, both general and psychiatric. In most cases, direct or indirect signs were given about suicidal thoughts to people in the environment prior to suicide, and in most cases there was evidence of depression, the majority of whom were in contact with services.
“These findings underline the importance of increased awareness among healthcare professionals about depression and suicidal behaviour, and optimised supervision and professional support for people working in healthcare professions,” said Dr Arensman.
Minister for Health Dr James Reilly has expressed his concern about suicide among healthcare professionals. He told an Oireachtas committee recently he had attended two funerals in the previous fortnight – of a GP and a pharmacist – and was aware of other health professionals who had died by suicide.